January 1st, 2013
The word hepatitis is a medical condition that describes the inflammation of the liver. We do not know how long the hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been around, but it is likely that the six main types of HCV that exist today are connected to a common origin from about 400 years ago.
One of the main treatments for hep C, interferon, was actually discovered decades before the virus was identified. In 1957, researchers at the National Institute for Medical Research in London discovered that a naturally occurring compound had anti-viral properties. It was named interferon because it appeared to interfere with a virus’ ability to replicate and spread.
During the 1960s and 70s, scientists discovered hepatitis A and B and identified blood tests for diagnosing the viruses in humans. However, many blood tests came back as negative, and were classed as non-A, non-B hepatitis.
It was not until 1989 when Dr Harvey J. Alter, Chief of the Infectious Disease Section in the Department of Transfusion Medicine at the US National Institutes of Health, confirmed the discovery of the virus, and it was renamed hepatitis C.
In 1990, blood banks began screening donors for hepatitis C, but it wasn’t until 1992 that an effective blood test was introduced, helping to eliminate HCV from medical blood supplies. Prior to the screening of the blood supply for hepatitis C, approximately 300,000 Americans contracted HCV through blood transfusions or blood products.
In 2000, Dr Alter and Dr Houghton were honored with the Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research for “pioneering work leading to the discovery of the virus that causes hepatitis C and the development of screening methods that reduced the risk of blood transfusion-associated hepatitis in the US from 30% in 1970 to virtually zero in 2000.”
Today, researchers around the world are working on advancing treatment for the condition and there have been several announcements recently featuring potential treatments. Read more about the latest advancements in treatment here.
Photo by marcelgermain